Review by: Scott Feinblatt
We Know You're In There!
Breaking & Entering Provides a Labyrinthine Snapshot of a Haunted Writer
SPOILER ALERT: Actually, I don't know if this review includes a bona fide “spoiler” because I don't reveal story
details; however, I do discuss a character's arc to such an extent that I felt an acknowledgment was in order.
Matthew Sklar and Katherine Canipe as famous
reclusive writer, W.J. Trumbull, and number one fan,
Milly. Photo by Sebastian Muñoz
After having been completely charmed by the ghoulish and avant-
garde Tour of Terror show at Zombie Joe's Underground Theater,
I was enthusiastic to return to Zombie Joe's theater with the
expectation of similarly styled material. When I returned, I was
treated to the far-from-ghoulish – yet very engaging – Breaking &
Entering. This, dear reader, is the explanation as to why there is a
non-horror themed review posted at Horror Works. Now with that
out of the way...
As with Tour of Terror, the quality of the programming at Zombie
Joe's theater belied the restrictions of the cozy space and
transported viewers into the world of its creators' imaginations.
Colin Mitchell's play is set in the apartment of reclusive writer W.J.
Trumbull. The Salinger-esque writer (Matthew Sklar) buries himself
in his alcohol and his baseball game, and then the power goes
out, allowing a young writer named Milly (Katherine Canipe) to
break into his apartment.
Milly pleads for the aloof Trumbull to write a forward for her novel
so that she can get a publishing deal. As the play progresses, we
learn that Milly possesses complete knowledge about Trumbull's
dark past, which enables a power shift between the two
characters. What follows is essentially a revelation of Trumbull's
history. The narrative is heavily coated with surrealism to the
extent that the events of the story are either perfectly balanced
with their symbolic counterparts, or they are simply a manifestation
of Trumbull's confrontation with his demons.
Sebastian Muñoz does a very good job directing the action in the small space. By turns, he makes audience
members want to climb inside the set as well as follow the gaze of the players to look beyond the confines of the
theater walls. He also does a very good job of sublimating the surreal environment of Mitchell's play within the
conflict of the two principal players.
Canipe portrays her complex character very well. We ultimately
never know whether Milly is a flesh-and-blood member of
Mitchell's world or a projection of Trumbull's imagination. She
personifies the underlying Truth of the story. Sklar's Trumbull
more-or-less maintains the guise of a bitter old fart throughout
the play – until a profound moment near the end when his wall
crumbles down, and he transforms into such a startlingly
vulnerable character that even the otherwise omnipresent
gravelly quality leaves his voice.
Rounding out the cast are Jason Britt and Jerry Chappell, who
perform admirably as baseball commentators. Every time they
appear, their collective visage provides comic relief;
furthermore, the content and nature of their commentary on the
World Series game – to which Trumbull continually attempts to
lose himself – provide a additional levels of surrealism.
Specifically, their discourse both symbolically and directly
comments on Trumbull's story.
Mitchell's deft use of symbolism and character types provides
solid entertainment for a wide range of viewers. Analytic minds
can occupy themselves by considering the implications of the
surreal elements, and casual theatergoers will enjoy the action
and the staging of the drama.
As an amusing coda (which you will shortly discover will not,
after all, actually be a coda), Mitchell's experiments with multiple
levels of storytelling do not end at the conclusion of Breaking &
Entering. As a minor note, there was no curtain call; thus the
Jason Britt and Jerry Chappell portray baseball
commentators who also provide commentary on the
narrative of Breaking & Entering.
Photo by Sebastian Muñoz
audience never sees the players until they are out of costume and completely removed from the environs of the
stage. Moreover, in addition to writing a play about a writer who may or may not be writing the story that we are
watching, Mitchell is writing reviews of the reviews of his show. Thus, dear reader, I am now a part of The
Neverending Story. Echo.